OMAHA, Neb. – Day three of the 2014 College World Series was the day of the pitcher as Texas’ Parker French and Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler both dominated the opposition to lead their teams to wins at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha on Monday. French allowed an earned run over 7.1 innings to lead the Longhorns to a 4-1 win over Louisville while Buehler hurled 5.1 no-hit innings in relief of Tyler Beede as the Commodores came from behind to defeat UC Irvine 6-4.
“I think the command was there today,” said French of his pivotal Game 5 start, “it was in the middle innings, the third or fourth inning, they are an aggressive baseball team from an offensive standpoint and they started swinging at a lot of early fastballs, so me and Tres talked about it and said we might want to start mixing it up with the slider a little more to give them something to think about make them uncomfortable.”
The strategy worked as the Cardinals’ hitters never seemed to catch up with the junior hurler as he threw 95 pitches and got 10 ground outs on the day.
“I think when I step out there every day, every game, this is probably the best defense in the country. I can say that with confidence, up the middle, everywhere,” said French about his defense that is so good that, “when they start making those plays it just makes me more of a, I guess, a strike-throwing machine.”
Short stop C.J. Hinojosa said that the defensive play behind French is about the approach, “With him throwing a lot of sinkers, we’ve gotta be ready, there’s going to be a lot of ground balls hit and as long as you’re ready and you’re seeing the ball of the bat and coach tommy Nicholson has helped us a lot with our first step and making that a key focus for us because with these guys pitching there’s going to be a lot of ground balls.”
A key element of a “well-pitched game” is the catcher and head coach Augie Garrido was quick to point out the influence Texas’ catcher Tres Barrera has on the Longhorns’ pitching effectiveness.
“[Tres Barrera] calls a majority of the pitches too, which isn’t always what goes on in college baseball,” said Garrido, “[Barrera’s] a very mature baseball player and very much a student of the game and he really has a calming effect with his personality on the pitching staff so he’s more like a professional catcher even as a freshman.”
Texas, having eliminated Louisville, advances to play UC Irvine in an elimination Game 9 on Wednesday at 2:00 pm central.
In the nightcap in Game 6, Vanderbilt got off to a rough start on the bump as the command issues that have plagued starter Tyler Beede this season returned in a four-run second inning for the Anteaters. Beede hit a batter, threw two wild pitches, allowed three hits and struck out two in the second inning alone.
Head coach Tim Corbin felt it was time to change in the fourth inning as Beede walked two batters and hit another batter to start the inning.
“We needed to change the pace of the game at that point,” said Corbin, “You might let a guy like that go a little bit longer but there is a point in the game we were losing by two and we wanted to keep the game right there.”
Corbin’s move paid off as Buehler entered the game and didn’t allow a hit over 5.1 innings of work while striking out seven to give the Commodores the opportunity to climb back into the game and win.
“When Walker Buehler came in there was a change in momentum,” said Corbin, “[Buehler] pounded the strike zone from the minute he got in there until the minute the game finished, very impressive, very mature approach to the game.”
Buehler, who normally starts, said he was told to be ready for relief possibilities in the Series, “Coach Brown and coach Corbin told me to be ready, but you expect your guys to go out and perform as well as they can, I was happy I was able to go out there and pick him up.”
“In this park you can get away with a ball up in the air because it plays gigantic,” said Buehler on his elevated fastballs on the night, “So I think you kind of have less fear of spraying a ball up because you don’t feel like you’re going to get hurt as much as you may playing in a smaller ballpark.”
Dansby Swanson carried the hot bat for Vanderbilt in the comeback win going 3-for-5 with a walk and two doubles, one of which bounced off the top of the wall in left coming within inches of being the first home run of the 2014 College World Series.
“I hit it I knew it hit it well I was running hard out of the box and whatever happens happens I don’t even know if it hit the fence. I honestly still don’t know,” said Swanson, but when informed of how close he came to hitting a homer he responded, “Knew I should have done those push-ups last night.”
Vanderbilt is off until Friday when it will face the winner of Game 9, which will be a rematch of Game 1, between UC Irvine and Texas at 7:00 pm central. UC Irvine defeated Texas 3-1 in the earlier match-up. The Commodores are in the driver’s seat, needing only one win to get to the final.